The Uncanny Counter (2020 - 21) Life After Victory
Although I was concerned that Episode 15 came across somewhat fillery, it turned out not to be as unnecessary as I had initially thought. Not most of it at least. Continuing on the theme that this is about So Mun's development as a superhero and adult, we're meant to witness him transition into someone quite remarkable even among Counters. Long ago, when my firstborn was just a bub, I used to watch ("persevere" might be the better word) Dragonball Z on television just to while the early morning away. Mun's recent levelling up events evoke key moments from that popular anime series. When pushed to the brink, our chief protagonist(s) tap into some kind of inner reserve or hit new heights (Super Saiyan mode), taking another step further towards becoming the best of the best. As if we can't already see it for ourselves, Mo-tak declares repeatedly (like a proud uncle) that Mun is the "ace of the team". ;)
Although I pity the HK-based Counter, Jeong-gu, for an unceremonious, quick entry and equally speedy exit, his presence in Episode 15 did serve a twofold purpose. He saved Mae-ok's life -- he became the sacrificial lamb in that regard but that also demonstrated another level to Mun's extraordinariness. Rather than being a formerly comatosed host with a spirit guide, Mun is in fact a gateway between earth and Yung.
Like the first Avengers film, I'm of the view that this series is largely about building a team of heroes from disparate backgrounds, having a variety of skill sets. The seeming underdog rookie joins an already established group of demon hunters as the latest addition. As expected he suffers growing pains initially but potentially becomes the most powerful of them all. The fact that these men and women are of diverse ages adds to a strong sense of familial bond that was displayed all throughout the series. Despite the importance attached to them, the birch staffs were just pieces of wood. There was no power in them. The real power came from the team members combining their strength to create some kind of force field to facilitate Mun's ability to summon Ji Cheong-sin and his inner demon. In the final analysis the team work was really what mattered as the show is at pains to reiterate all throughout the last two episodes. No one person or two persons can deal with the Level 4 evil spirit on their own. The entire team had to be in it together doing their little bit. Mo-tak emphasizes this when he reminds Mun that this isn't his fight alone. Everyone of them has got a personal stake in it and not just because it's their job.
The purpose of the finale is not too different from Mystic Pop-up Bar and Chocolate from last year. Grief, loss and moving on with no regrets. Death comes to us all eventually and there's really no knowing when it could hit anyone. Most aren't as prepared as we should be because truth be told, death is a subject matter that most would prefer to postpone discussion of or avoid altogether. Except for the knotty issue that it's one of the few certainties of life. Young So Mun grew up shouldering a whole lot of guilt on his young shoulders because he blamed himself for the "accident" and by extension, the death of his mum and dad. When the truth eluded him, it added a layer of responsibility on him that most kids his age can't understand. Knowing that other persons were responsible for their murder did take a load of his mind but the need to come clean never left him. Confession... as it has often been said... is good for the soul. When the entire family finally reunites, Mun's burden is lifted.
The show also celebrates the heroism of the ordinary men and women who have no superpowers. In the normal course of life it's a thankless task but when corruption is rife particularly in the public service, the burden is all the more greater. Seeing Mun's mother in her uniform before saying her final farewells is a sober reminder that both parents died in the line of duty. They were killed by the unoriginal truck of doom because they were attempting to do their job despite the dangers attached and the opposition they were faced with. Detective Kim Jeong-yeong was another fallen hero. For seven years she had no one to rely on and yet she persisted right to the bitter end. She too paid the ultimate price for holding on to her principles. It was tragic and yet her life was meaningful because she did the right thing when it was hard to do so.
It's true that the final showdown with the mayor and the level four demon had a cheesy flavour to it but it had at least a couple of chuckle worthy moments. The chairman is always good for a few laughs. Superficially the chairman and Ha-na didn't seem to achieve all that much despite the huffing and puffing but it seemed that they were holding back the demon's telekinetic abilities in that vital moment. At least that was what was implied by the dialogue. The team was acting as a team in whatever capacity they were in at the time.
I don't know how readers of my blog feel about the afterlife but I am one of those people who reflect a lot about what comes after death especially in these difficult days. Although my theology doesn't mesh with that of the drama's in most ways, raising such issues is never a waste of time. Hopefully it can even spur conversations of substance about deeper things that keep us awake at night. There is something innately human about clinging on to thoughts about heaven and hell. For one it's tied in with universal justice and secondly, it gives hope that there's more to life than the pain and suffering in this world. When I watch the reunion between the living and the dead, I tear up. Why? It touches something profound that lurks in my soul and it resonates. Hell has become a taboo in some circles these days but honestly when I see the evil doers (corporeal and incorporeal) get their just desserts, I am relieved that justice is done. Even if the cogs in the law and order machinery turn over at snail's pace.
Aside from the fact that this show is brimming with palpable familial beats, the other thing that makes it satisfying is the fact that good does triumph over evil even if the costs are high... as long as there are people who are willing to stand up for the what's right. There's even room in the universe for those who come to their sense and turn from their wicked ways. Shin Hyeon-uk is one of those who is not too far gone that he can't be saved from a fate far worse than death.
A final shoutout to the entire cast: the good, the bad and the ugly for doing such a fine job selling this engaging action adventure fantasy. Special mention must be made of the Counter family whose chemistry and interactions ensured that this would be much more than just a cheesy chopsocky screen outing. And a double portion of praise should be doled out to Jo Byung-gu who was stellar in the titular role. He humanized So Mun, made him relatable and caused us all to fall in love with the character warts and all. He was a kid when he had to be and a maturing superhero when the occasion called for it. Undoubtedly he is a talent to watch. There's no doubting that this is a lad that will go places.